Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2008 Grand Finale

2008 has been an amazing year for me for many reasons. The wedding took the cake by far, but the racing was close behind in second. This year the light switches kept turning on, opening my eyes to the next level of racing. I learned strategy.... I found away to ride into the hurt, rather than away from it.... and I learned how to keep my head in the game regardless of the circumstances. Jingle Cross in Iowa City was the perfect crescendo to this year's anthem.

Rock 1 was cold, but relatively dry and easy to maneuver. My start wasn't as great as my husband's signature move, but my front-line start position served me well by keeping me in the top ten from the start. We wove through the twists and turns and found ourselves at the first double-barrier. I was in 4th but made a quick move into 3rd, dodging the junior riders as I sprinted after my rabbit, the ever-strong Kris Brazil. I was hot on her heals up the notorious Mount Krumpet on the first lap, but sadly watched her and the 1st place Iowa native ride away from me effortlessly as they bombed the following downhill. (With a slight flare up in the vertebrae in my neck, my hand control was hindered and so was my invincibility, so I took it smart and controlled)

Somewhere in the next lap, my teammate, Amy, came around me and I cheered for her to chase the women I couldn't catch. I managed to hold that position, finishing in 4th behind Amy, with our other teammate, Dana, close behind in 6th. It was an awesome day for the hellions....3 top 10 finishes! It was killa!

Jay, sadly, wasn't feelin it as much so his race was tough. He still finished top 15, though, so I was super proud of his racing. Like always, we kicked it on top of Mt. Krumpet for the afternoon, swilling barley sodas w/ the locals as we heckled and cheered the racers.

Rock 2 was another story.... after the previous day's 7 hours of racing, the ruts had made their mark. Top that off with an all-night snow and temps that hovered right around freezing, the day's races were going to be epic.... no matter how hard I try to stray from the over-used phrase.

Dana, Amy, and I were to be the first racers of the day. We arrived early, Jay laying down the first tracks in the snow as I layered up and let my mind go blank. Once on my bike, I was in the zone.... it was the same place I was in before the state championship this year... There were no thoughts. The only sound outside my body was my bike and my quiet breaths. Inside, quiet echoes of songs in my Ipod rattled inside my head, creating a soundtrack to the elements of the course. I was sliding out like crazy at half speed and knew I was in for a major challenge - this was going to be the most inclement race to date for me, and the calm atmosphere within me let me know I was ready.

After a few warm-up laps, I toed the line as the snow dampened my glasses. Aside from anything I could have imagined, I captured the hole shot instantly and lead out through the first twists and turns. The previous day's winner passed me on a slippery left hand curve as my rear wheel slid out. I could hear Dana repeating "you're alright"... my bike steadied itself instantly. Dana, the most awesome mtn biker, came around me and I tried to stick with her over the double barrier. At the run up, I passed her as some issue stopped her at the top and took my place in second. We rode down a slippery off-camber down hill as the falling snow melted on the now exposed mud and ruts. With my hands wrapped tightly around my drops (and far from my breaks) I bombed the short drop to try and catch the leader some 20 yds in front of me. We were on a long straight away I'd ridden 3 times earlier and knew my line. I punched it into one of my hardest gears in an attempt to get on her wheel before the next twists and turns came.
Somewhere beneath the freshly fallen snow, a sideways rut was hiding. I hit it with my front wheel at full speed, twisting it instantly, and throwing me over the bars violently. As I went head first into the snowy ditch, the right side of my rib cage caught my right break lever and bent it almost 45 degrees. Disoriented, I tried to figure out what was going on. I heard Dana scream to find out if I was okay... I reassured her as best I could and urged her to chase down the leader. I forced myself up and checked to see if I could feel any broken bones. Two more riders passed. Although my side hurt, a couple deep breaths didn't seem to aggravate the matter, so I began to run and remount my steed.

I entered the Whoville Whirl as Jay was nearby in the pit, encouraging me to stop so he could fix my crooked lever. The shifting still worked (considering the amount of snow gathered in my derailluer), so I refused..... I was now in 5th and had some time to make up. By the backside of the course, I caught the next rider and moved into 4th with an attack on the log double barrier. Though I rode away from her for a bit, she closed in fast at the coasting-pace, zig zag barn. I knew I had to make up time whenever possible and kept up the attacks to try to increase the gaps whenever possible. By the time we got to the Whirl again, I had a decent lead and had moved onto 3rd. By the time I got out of the Whirl, she was right there again.... I had to do something.

I felt nothing as I rode at my threshold. My bike swerved and complained as I pushed and fought against the snow and increasing mud. By the time I got back to the zig zag again, I came up with a new strategy.... I sure couldn't ride it fast, but I could run it....and so I did. And I solidified the gap I was working so hard on for the last couple miles.

I kept the pace, knowing I had one final lap to lay down everything I had remaining after a long '08. With my teammate Amy in second place in front of me, I tried to do nothing but to hold my position and protect hers. Jay was all over the course, cheering and encouraging me as I rode blind and beyond reason. All the elements that usually washed me clean of energy were a blur as I charged over, through, and past them. I took another digger or two on some slippery turns, but never hesitated to hurry back onto my saddle and answer with an attack on myself. The podium was right there in my sights and I couldn't let it get away today. I sprinted through the zig zag for the last time and never looked back. With every last bit of energy, I sprinted across the line and saluted my super supportive husband, Jay. Exhausted and ecstatic, I chatted w/a few of the women after the race, commending them on their great racing, and sharing stories from the preceding moments. Like nothing I could have ever imagined, I sat in awe of my third place finish.

To follow up on my hard effort, Jay took his place on the start line and readied himself for his final race of the year. With his years of mountain biking experience under him, he handled the ever-dwindling conditions. He wove round the slick corners expertly and kept himself in good position in the single speed race. Even as they added the sloppy downhill to his course, he managed to keep his bike upright in the slop.After some major efforts and a ton of perseverance, Jay crossed the finish, taking third. I was so proud, and of course still am. What a way to finish the year!!!! [yes, we're calling it quits before Nationals....maybe next year]. Great job, babe! And a super huge Thanks to you for all your support and teaching this year. I couldn't imagine having such a year without you. Thanks hun - I love you tons!

Though part of me wishes this year still hadn't come to an end, I know it's for the best. The sooner I rest, the sooner I can begin training for the 2009 season. Yep, you heard it here year, I train. I'm ready to work for an upgrade in '09. Look out world, Kristy Kreme has got the eye of the tiger, and I'm not afraid to unleash it.

Reveling in my R&R,
Kristy Kreme